Classical Review - New Series 7 (1957) pp. 289-90

Ad Scapulam. Prolegomeni,
Testo Critico e Commento
. (Opuscula
Patrum, i.) Pp. 131. Paris: Desclée et
Cie., 1957, Paper.

THE open letter to Scapula, the shortest of
Tertullian's writings, takes up two of the
themes already treated at length in the
Apologeticum and Ad Nationes, namely that
Christians are not atheists, nor are they dis-
loyal citizens, the writer's object being not
to obtain a cessation of persecution (for
Christians regard this as to their advantage)
but to fulfil his Christian duty of warning the
governor of the divine penalties which await
persecutors. The letter, in itself of no theo-
logical and little historical importance, pro-
vides the editor with the opportunity (which
he has used to good effect) of treating of
various matters connected with the author's
works, his style, and his vocabulary. If we
say that it will serve as a sound introduction
to the study of these aspects of Tertullian's
work, this is not to mean that there is here
anything elementary: there is a thorough
treatment of the matters in hand, such as in
an edition of one of the longer or more im-
portant works would have to be crowded out
by more urgent questions.

    The book begins with an imposing biblio-
grafia citata
, and a later note on early editions
of Tertullian shows direct acquaintance with
these and quotes extensively from those
editors' remarks on their predecessors. The
section on the manuscript tradition, no less
than the apparatus criticus, takes note of all
surviving manuscripts. Particularly useful
is a long note on rhetorical forms (schemi
) and on Tertullian's clausulae. The
editor argues convincingly that the letter
was written in the autumn of 212: to one's
surprise it appears that there were six
eclipses of the sun visible at Utica between
197 and 212, though other considerations
prove that it has to be the last of them to
which Tertullian refers.

    The text is printed in cola, a device which
accentuates the rhythm of the phrases at the
expense of the flow of the sentences, and
makes for difficult reading. An exhaustive,
and exhausting, apparatus criticus follows
each of the five chapters. One might ques-
tion whether some of the manuscript variants,
and a few of the conjectures, were worth
recording. With the text as established there
will be little disagreement: ante cum animas
nostras auctorati
(chapter 1) is not easy to
understand, and is not explained in the
notes: quod ipsa Carthago passura est (chapter

5) is even for Tertullian an unusual form of
question (and what can a previous editor
have meant by quid ipse Carthago?) : in chap-
ter 3 damnasset is apparently a slip or misprint
for damnasses.

    The notes are beyond praise. In addition
to biographical notices of persons they com-
prise a large number of well-documented
expositions of Tertullian's terminology
future editors of Tertullian, and compilers
of lexicons, will do well to look at them,
having first consulted the excellent index in
search of words of immediate interest. One
might question (p. 78) whether cuius reus
(Apol. i) is an example of gaudere
governing the genitive, and even if it were
it could hardly be a hellenism, since xai/rein
does not do so. On p. 112 the note on in
Iovis nomine
is misconceived, and the quota-
tion from Seneca (interesting as it is in
itself) is beside the point: for what Tertullian
means, as he says more clearly elsewhere, is
that, little as they know it, when the popu-
lace refer to one supreme god, qui solus
, they are, in spite of their calling him
Jupiter, paying unwitting testimony to the
one God. On p. 97 read Libyam.

    The usefulness of this edition is out of all
proportion to its small volume or to the
unimportance of Tertullian's letter which
lies behind it. The abbreviation 'Q. S. F.
Tertulliani' (which we regret to have met
elsewhere) is to be deprecated: the writer's
real name was Septimius, and the elder
Scipio, for example, would be unrecognizable
if described as P. C. S. Africanus.


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